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This Day In History: 08/18/1991 - Coup Against Gorbachev

This Day In History: 08/18/1991 - Coup Against Gorbachev


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In a This Day in History video, host Russ Mitchell takes us through the history of August 18th. On this day in 1896, publisher Arthur Oaks took over a failing newspaper: The New York Times. On this day in 1920, women won the right to vote when Tennessee ratified the 19th amendment. Also, on this day in 1991, the Russian military staged a coup.


The attempted coup

Rumours of a coup against Gorbachev were rife in Moscow throughout the spring and summer of 1991. The military, the KGB, and conservative communists were alarmed at the turn of events. They wanted strong central leadership in order to keep the Soviet Union communist and together. Gorbachev had little to fear from the Communist Party. He had sharply reduced the power of the Politburo at the 28th Party Congress in June 1990 but had had to concede the emergence of a Russian Communist Party. This was dominated by the party apparat and turned out to be a toothless tiger. As it eventually transpired, a coup was organized by the KGB and was timed to prevent the signing of a union treaty on August 20 that would have strengthened the republics and weakened the centre.

On August 18, 1991, a delegation visited Gorbachev at his summer dacha at Foros in Crimea. The delegation demanded Gorbachev’s resignation and replacement by Gennady Yanayev, the vice president. When Gorbachev refused, he was held prisoner while the coup leaders, called the Extraordinary Commission and guided by KGB boss Vladimir Kryuchkov, declared that Gorbachev had been obliged to resign for reasons of health. As the commission tried to take over the country, Yeltsin arrived at the Russian parliament building, from where, beginning on August 19, he declared the putsch an attempt to crush Russia, called for the return of Gorbachev, and appealed for popular support. Lack of decisiveness on the part of the coup leaders led to more and more support for the Russian president even some soldiers and tank units turned to defend the parliament building, and some top military officers sided with Yeltsin. There were only three fatalities in Moscow before the coup collapsed on August 21.


Soviet hard-liners launch coup against Gorbachev

On August 18, 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces.

Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system. Combining perestroika (“restructuring”) of the economy–including a greater emphasis on free-market policies–and glasnost (“openness”) in diplomacy, he greatly improved Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. Meanwhile, though, within the USSR, Gorbachev faced powerful critics, including conservative, hard-line politicians and military officials who thought he was driving the Soviet Union toward its downfall and making it a second-rate power. On the other side were even more radical reformers–particularly Boris Yeltsin, president of the most powerful socialist republic, Russia–who complained that Gorbachev was just not working fast enough.

The August 1991 coup was carried out by the hard-line elements within Gorbachev’s own administration, as well as the heads of the Soviet army and the KGB, or secret police. Detained at his vacation villa in the Crimea, he was placed under house arrest and pressured to give his resignation, which he refused to do. Claiming Gorbachev was ill, the coup leaders, headed by former vice president Gennady Yanayev, declared a state of emergency and attempted to take control of the government.

Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament then stepped in, calling on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. When soldiers tried to arrest Yeltsin, they found the way to the parliamentary building blocked by armed and unarmed civilians. Yeltsin himself climbed aboard a tank and spoke through a megaphone, urging the troops not to turn against the people and condemning the coup as a “new reign of terror.” The soldiers backed off, some of them choosing to join the resistance. After thousands took the streets to demonstrate, the coup collapsed after only three days.

Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, but his regime had been dealt a deadly blow. Over the next few months, he dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and proposed a looser, more economics-based federation among the remaining republics. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin capitalized on his defeat of the coup, emerging from the rubble of the former Soviet Union as the most powerful figure in Moscow and the leader of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).


The August Coup

As in 1917 when General Lavr Kornilov attempted to roll back the tide of revolution by launching what proved to be an abortive coup, so in 1991 August was the month when a group of eight highly-placed Soviet officials declared themselves a State Committee for the State of Emergency and attempted to seize the reins of political power. In both instances, failure to unseat the existing government redounded not to its benefit, but to forces that were more persuasive in claiming responsibility for putting down the coup. In 1917 these were the Red Guards mobilized by the Bolsheviks in 1991, it was Boris Eltsin, President of the Russian Federation, whose demonstrative resistance to the coup enhanced his popular support.

The coup of August 1991 was timed to prevent the signing of the new Union Treaty which would have fundamentally recast the relationship between the center and the republics in favor of the latter, and was scheduled for August 20. On August 18, a group of five military and state officials arrived at Gorbachev’s presidential holiday home at Foros on the Crimean coast to attempt to persuade him to endorse a declaration of a state of emergency. Gorbachev’s angry refusal to do so was the first indication that the coup plotters had miscalculated. The leaders of the coup, the eight members of the State Committee that issued the declaration were Oleg Baklanov, Gorbachev’s deputy head of the Security Council and the most important representative of the military-industrial complex in the leadership, Vladimir Kriuchkov (head of the KGB), Dmitrii Iazov (Minister of Defense), Valentin Pavlov (Prime Minister), Boris Pugo (Minister of Interior), Gennadii Ianaev (Vice President), Vasilii Starodubtsev (head of the Peasants’ Union, a political pressure group opposed to the dismantling of collective farms), and Aleksandr Tiziakov, a leading representative of state industry. They thus included several people whom Gorbachev had appointed and on whom he had relied for advice and counsel especially during his “turn to the right” in the winter of 1990-91.

While Gorbachev was held virtual prisoner, the State Committee ordered tanks and other military vehicles into the streets of the capital and announced on television that they had to take action because Gorbachev was ill and incapacitated. Some of the republics’ leaders went along with the coup others adopted a wait-and-see approach. A few declared the coup unconstitutional. Among them was Eltsin who made his way to the White House, the Russian parliament building, and, with CNN’s cameras rolling, mounted a disabled tank to rally supporters of democracy. The soldiers and elite KGB units ordered into the streets by the State Committee refused to fire on or disperse the demonstrators. By August 21 the leaders of the coup had given up. An exhausted Gorbachev returned to Moscow to find it totally transformed. When he visited the Russian parliament, Eltsin’s stronghold, he was humiliated by Eltsin and taunted by the deputies. Reluctantly, he agreed to Eltsin’s dissolution of the Communist Party which was held responsible for the coup and resigned as the party’s General Secretary. Eltsin thereupon proceeded to abolish or take over the institutions of the now moribund Soviet Union.


"The Charbor Chronicles"

Once again, it should be reiterated, that this does not pretend to be a very extensive history of what happened on this day (nor is it the most original - the links can be found down below). If you know something that I am missing, by all means, shoot me an email or leave a comment, and let me know!

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history


Aug 18, 1227: Genghis Khan dies

Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who forged an empire stretching from the east coast of China west to the Aral Sea, dies in camp during a campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. The great Khan, who was over 60 and in failing health, may have succumbed to injuries incurred during a fall from a horse in the previous year.

Genghis Khan was born as Temujin around 1162. His father, a minor Mongol chieftain, died when Temujin was in his early teens. Temujin succeeded him, but the tribe would not obey so young a chief. Temporarily abandoned, Temujin's family was left to fend for themselves in the wilderness of the Steppes.

By his late teens, Temujin had grown into a feared warrior and charismatic figure who began gathering followers and forging alliances with other Mongol leaders. After his wife was kidnapped by a rival tribe, Temujin organized a military force to defeat the tribe. Successful, he then turned against other clans and tribes and set out to unite the Mongols by force. Many warriors voluntarily came to his side, but those who did not were defeated and then offered the choice of obedience or death. The nobility of conquered tribes were generally executed. By 1206, Temujin was the leader of a great Mongol confederation and was granted the title Genghis Khan, translated as "Oceanic Ruler" or "Universal Ruler."

Khan promulgated a code of conduct and organized his armies on a system of 10: 10 men to a squad, 10 squads to a company, 10 companies to a regiment, and 10 regiments to a "Tumen," a fearful military unit made up of 10,000 cavalrymen. Because of their nomadic nature, the Mongols were able to breed far more horses than sedentary civilizations, which could not afford to sacrifice farmland for large breeding pastures. All of Khan's warriors were mounted, and half of any given army was made up of armored soldiers wielding swords and lances. Light cavalry archers filled most of the remaining ranks. Khan's family and other trusted clan members led these highly mobile armies, and by 1209 the Mongols were on the move against China.

Using an extensive network of spies and scouts, Khan detected a weakness in his enemies' defenses and then attacked the point with as many as 250,000 cavalrymen at once. When attacking large cities, the Mongols used sophisticated sieging equipment such as catapults and mangonels and even diverted rivers to flood out the enemy. Most armies and cities crumbled under the overwhelming show of force, and the massacres that followed a Mongol victory eliminated thoughts of further resistance. Those who survived--and millions did not--were granted religious freedom and protection within the rapidly growing Mongol empire. By 1227, Khan had conquered much of Central Asia and made incursions into Eastern Europe, Persia, and India. His great empire stretched from central Russia down to the Aral Sea in the west, and from northern China down to Beijing in the east.

On August 18, 1227, while putting down a revolt in the kingdom of Xi Xia, Genghis Khan died. On his deathbed, he ordered that Xi Xia be wiped from the face of the earth. Obedient as always, Khan's successors leveled whole cities and towns, killing or enslaving all their inhabitants. Obeying his order to keep his death secret, Genghis' heirs slaughtered anyone who set eyes on his funeral procession making its way back to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol empire. Still bringing death as he had in life, many were killed before his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave. His final resting place remains a mystery.

The Mongol empire continued to grow after Genghis Khan's death, eventually encompassing most of inhabitable Eurasia. The empire disintegrated in the 14th century, but the rulers of many Asian states claimed descendant from Genghis Khan and his captains.




Aug 18, 1991: Soviet hard-liners launch coup against Gorbachev

On this day in 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces.

Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system. Combining perestroika ("restructuring") of the economy--including a greater emphasis on free-market policies--and glasnost ("openness") in diplomacy, he greatly improved Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. Meanwhile, though, within the USSR, Gorbachev faced powerful critics, including conservative, hard-line politicians and military officials who thought he was driving the Soviet Union toward its downfall and making it a second-rate power. On the other side were even more radical reformers--particularly Boris Yeltsin, president of the most powerful socialist republic, Russia--who complained that Gorbachev was just not working fast enough.

The August 1991 coup was carried out by the hard-line elements within Gorbachev's own administration, as well as the heads of the Soviet army and the KGB, or secret police. Detained at his vacation villa in the Crimea, he was placed under house arrest and pressured to give his resignation, which he refused to do. Claiming Gorbachev was ill, the coup leaders, headed by former vice president Gennady Yanayev, declared a state of emergency and attempted to take control of the government.

Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament then stepped in, calling on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. When soldiers tried to arrest Yeltsin, they found the way to the parliamentary building blocked by armed and unarmed civilians. Yeltsin himself climbed aboard a tank and spoke through a megaphone, urging the troops not to turn against the people and condemning the coup as a "new reign of terror." The soldiers backed off, some of them choosing to join the resistance. After thousands took the streets to demonstrate, the coup collapsed after only three days.

Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, but his regime had been dealt a deadly blow. Over the next few months, he dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and proposed a looser, more economics-based federation among the remaining republics. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin capitalized on his defeat of the coup, emerging from the rubble of the former Soviet Union as the most powerful figure in Moscow and the leader of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).


Aug 18, 1971: Australia and New Zealand decide to withdraw troops from Vietnam

Australia and New Zealand announce the end of the year as the deadline for withdrawal of their respective contingents from Vietnam. The Australians had 6,000 men in South Vietnam and the New Zealanders numbered 264. Both nations agreed to leave behind small training contingents. Australian Prime Minister William McMahon proclaimed that the South Vietnamese forces were now able to assume Australia's role in Phuoc Tuy province, southeast of Saigon and that Australia would give South Vietnam $28 million over the next three years for civilian projects. Total Australian losses for the period of their commitment in Vietnam were 473 dead and 2,202 wounded the monetary cost of the war was $182 million for military expenses and $16 million in civilian assistance to South Vietnam.






Aug 18, 1941: Hitler suspends euthanasia program

On this day in 1941, Adolf Hitler orders that the systematic murder of the mentally ill and handicapped be brought to an end because of protests within Germany.

In 1939, Dr. Viktor Brack, head of Hitler's Euthanasia Department, oversaw the creation of the T.4 program, which began as the systematic killing of children deemed "mentally defective." Children were transported from all over Germany to a Special Psychiatric Youth Department and killed. Later, certain criteria were established for non-Jewish children. They had to be "certified" mentally ill, schizophrenic, or incapable of working for one reason or another. Jewish children already in mental hospitals, whatever the reason or whatever the prognosis, were automatically to be subject to the program. The victims were either injected with lethal substances or were led to "showers" where the children sat as gas flooded the room through water pipes. The program was then expanded to adults.

It wasn't long before protests began mounting within Germany, especially by doctors and clergy. Some had the courage to write Hitler directly and describe the T.4 program as "barbaric" others circulated their opinions more discreetly. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the man who would direct the systematic extermination of European Jewry, had only one regret: that the SS had not been put in charge of the whole affair. "We know how to deal with it correctly, without causing useless uproar among the people."

Finally, in 1941, Bishop Count Clemens von Galen denounced the euthanasia program from his pulpit. Hitler did not need such publicity. He ordered the program suspended, at least in Germany. But 50,000 people had already fallen victim to it. It would be revived in occupied Poland.







Aug 18, 1795: George Washington signs Jay Treaty with Britain

On this day in 1795, President George Washington signs the Jay (or "Jay's") Treaty with Great Britain.

This treaty, known officially as the "Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty and The United States of America" attempted to diffuse the tensions between England and the United States that had risen to renewed heights since the end of the Revolutionary War. The U.S. government objected to English military posts along America's northern and western borders and Britain's violation of American neutrality in 1794 when the Royal Navy seized American ships in the West Indies during England's war with France. The treaty, written and negotiated by Supreme Court Chief Justice (and Washington appointee) John Jay, was signed by Britain's King George III on November 19, 1794 in London. However, after Jay returned home with news of the treaty's signing, Washington, now in his second term, encountered fierce Congressional opposition to the treaty by 1795, its ratification was uncertain.

Leading the opposition to the treaty were two future presidents: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At the time, Jefferson was in between political positions: he had just completed a term as Washington's secretary of state from 1789 to 1793 and had not yet become John Adams' vice president. Fellow Virginian James Madison was a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson, Madison and other opponents feared the treaty gave too many concessions to the British. They argued that Jay's negotiations actually weakened American trade rights and complained that it committed the U.S. to paying pre-revolutionary debts to English merchants. Washington himself was not completely satisfied with the treaty, but considered preventing another war with America's former colonial master a priority.

Ultimately, the treaty was approved by Congress on August 14, 1795, with exactly the two-thirds majority it needed to pass Washington signed the treaty four days later. Washington and Jay may have won the legislative battle and averted war temporarily, but the conflict at home highlighted a deepening division between those of different political ideologies in Washington, D.C. Jefferson and Madison mistrusted Washington's attachment to maintaining friendly relations with England over revolutionary France, who would have welcomed the U.S. as a partner in an expanded war against England.



Wow! Today was

Here's a more detailed look at events that transpired on this date throughout history:


End of an Era: The August Coup and the Final Days of the Soviet Union

In August 1991, Soviet hardliners attempted to overthrow the progressive Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary General of the Communist Party, in a desperate attempt to save the collapsing Soviet Union. Declaring a state of emergency, eight government officials named themselves the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) and forcibly detained Gorbachev in the Crimea, where he refused to resign. At the GKChP’s behest, armored tanks thundered into Moscow on the morning of August 19 th , and the city’s only independent political radio station was silenced. Later that day, President Boris Yeltsin issued a statement condemning the coup and commanding those responsible to release Gorbachev. The coup disintegrated with little bloodshed two days later, on August 21st, when the soldiers withdrew and communications between Gorbachev and Moscow were renewed.

Although unsuccessful, the coup signaled an end to both Gorbachev’s supremacy and to the Soviet Union, which would be dissolved in December of that year. In the following interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning February 2003, William Green Miller, who was working in Moscow for the American Committee on U.S.– Soviet Relations at the time, discusses his impressions of the Soviet Union’s final days, the bitter rivalry between Yeltsin and Gorbachev which all but sealed the fate of the USSR, and his memories of the coup which heralded the end of an era. Read also about Yeltsin’s 1993 constitutional crisis and the attack on the Russian White House.

“Like Sampson, the Soviets brought down their own house”

MILLER: The battle for the survival of the Soviet Union was personified in the rivalry between Gorbachev and Yeltsin. I was there, in the Kremlin, in the Great Hall, when Gorbachev came back from the coup attempt in August. Yeltsin received him on the stage with such visible great contempt, at the swearing-in of Yeltsin as President of Russia. I was present at the trial of the Communist party, which was held in the former offices of the Central Committee, which was then being transformed into the offices of the Constitutional Court. And I was present at committee meetings of the Supreme Soviet on human rights and arms control….

Q: What was the role of nongovernmental committees?

MILLER: NGOs came in to Moscow in abundance starting after the last Central Committee Congress, in 1988, during which Gorbachev gave his landmark speech admitting “there were white spots in history” and that “it was possible to have different views than that of the party,” an admission and permission that began the end of the party….Every conceivable nongovernmental interest group started to arrive, and they multiplied almost like a plague of locusts….it was messy and contradictory and difficult, but all of it was a part of the turbulence going on at the time….

For us, it was total immersion and constant activity, taking part in this momentous change with the most marvelous people, ranging from Gorbachev and Yeltsin to the oppressed gulagis [GULAG survivors] and the Human Rights Group. These human rights people who were able to survive are so remarkable. They are our good friends to this day. I can recall at first we were afraid to meet anyone in their apartment because it would be bugged and it was a risk for them to have Americans in their home. We’d have to go outside and walk and sit on park benches–it was at first, dangerous for our friends to talk to us. After 1988, there were absolutely no inhibitions…

“The best in the human spirit”

Marxism was still deeply held. The Gorbachevian proposition was that Marxism could be reformed, that the era of change was necessary because of the failure of Stalin and his regime’s brutality. The 1968 Czech Prague uprising had a profound effect on Gorbachev. The idea that it was necessary for socialism to have a human face was then widely believed. It is still a strong element of belief in Russia, and as I found, in Ukraine. He believed in reformed Marxist solutions, he believes in it to this day. It’s still a strong school of thought in all of the former Soviet states – although it is a minority view, whereas it was once the only permitted view.

The hardliners, who were in charge of the security organizations, were the holdouts, but in the perestroika [“restructuring”] time, they were the ideological minority, although they were in charge of the security ministries. The August coup of 1991 was their last attempt to maintain control. And that was the question, whether the ideological change, the “new thinking” so called would prevail, or whether the hard-liners would allow the change to take place….[T]he futile, comic coup attempt, by the pathetic coup group, was a clear sign the change was irreversible. The Stalinist hard-liners didn’t have the conviction that a militant group in charge of the power and security ministries in the past would have had.

The children of the Bolshevik Revolution had a different idea. The failure of Gorbachev to handle the expectations and demands of the intellectuals, the inability to control or at least steer the new freedom that had been acquired by the younger generation, was the main reason, I think, for the end of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev couldn’t accommodate or adapt fully enough to the consequences of this new freedom….

This was a hell of a time to be in Moscow as a Foreign Service officer, as an NGO president, as I was, as a journalist, as a tourist. It was an extraordinary moment and a great expression of the best in the human spirit….

I think [there is] a desire on the part of some of our leaders to think that they were responsible for the end of the Soviet Union. The end of the Soviet Union was Soviet, from within. It had little or nothing to do with us…..Like Sampson, the Soviets brought down their own house….

Q: You were there during the coup attempt against Gorbachev, when Yeltsin came into his own?

MILLER: Yes, of course, but there was also the suspicion that Gorbachev was part of the coup. That’s a thought that persists to this day, that Gorbachev was trying, in some way, to get rid of Yeltsin, that Yeltsin was such a threat to Gorbachev that this coup may have been a clumsy effort to get rid of Yeltsin. Yeltsin was warned by the KGB in Moscow and he escaped – he was about to be captured. When I was Ambassador in Ukraine I stayed at Foros [a resort town in Yalta on the southwest coast of the Crimea], there where Gorbachev had been seized by the KGB.

The Director of Foros told me details during my stay there in 1996, of the days of the coup. He was there at the time of the coup. He said that during the coup, Gorbachev always had full communications with Moscow, he was very well-treated. The director believed that Gorbachev was really free to leave, but did not do so until Yeltsin sent Sergei Shakhrai [Olympic pair skater] down with a plane to bring him back after the coup effort collapsed. The Director of Foros believed that Gorbachev was part of the coup. I know that Yeltsin’s people believed that….

“The last gasp”

Q: What was the viewpoint from the Moscow side of the fall of the Berlin wall in 󈨝?

MILLER: The fall of the Berlin Wall cannot be understood by itself. The impact of the 1968 Prague uprising on Gorbachev, the power of the human rights movement and the example of people liked Andrei Sakharov…all contributed to the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall. But most important was Gorbachev’s decision that people of each nation will make their own decision about the government they want to have. Self-determination is a view that he came to in 1968 in the Prague uprising. Some of his close friends were Czechs….

The possibilities of working out a new democratic rationale for the Soviet Union [were] lost with the death of Sakharov. Sakharov was the only one who could have crafted a new viable confederation, a looser democratic arrangement of states within the territorial framework of the former Soviet Union.

[T]he debate at that time centered on the issues of whether it was possible to have a confederation on new principles, principles of democracy, human rights, decent civic and civil behavior….It was a brief period of two years when this remarkable group of Russians were looking at the possibilities of a great new future. After all, the Soviet Union was a country that was founded on dreams, dreams that were almost never realized, of course. These dreams and hopes perhaps were never intended by the Stalinists and the leaders of the Communist Party to be anything more than temporary illusions. But in those years, there were dreams and hopes that seemed to have meaning and possibility. People were coming to Moscow from all over the Warsaw Pact region….

It was a very real hope – that is, the possibility of a democratic Soviet Union. The chance for a democratic Soviet Union is challenged by the drive to create an independent Russia.

Yeltsin, as you remember, championed the independence movement of Russia. His motivations, I would say were primarily personal. Yeltsin wanted to break the power of Gorbachev, his sworn enemy. I don’t think it was the highest of motives. At the same time, many members of the Supreme Soviet were also elected to the Russian Parliament, so they served, for a time, in the legislature in both places. In the opinion of most political observers of the time, the very best, the most talented were those who decided to stay with the Soviet Union. I thought so too. They said ‘Our highest duty is with the Soviet Union. We can’t serve two masters.’…

That crucial period in Moscow was extraordinarily hopeful from the point of view of the possibilities of constructing a new Europe, a new world after the failed experiment of the Communist Party. Russia lost its direction when it lost Sakharov….I would say once the Sakharov’s moral and intellectual leadership was gone and there was a divided struggle for power between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, the impetus for self-determination, independent states, gained sway, and that was really the end. The coup attempt was very symptomatic. The coup was the last gasp, a last-ditch effort by a military coup, by those who wanted to keep the Soviet Union together.

“The death blow”

Q: How did your organization and you see developments prior to the coup?

MILLER: We were just as active after the coup as before in working in the parliaments of both of these structures, and in the new ministries of Russia, particularly the Ministry of Justice, while at the same time the existing Soviet structures were in place. There was a kind of joint responsibility of many of those who were Russian and those from outside who were really helping both places, because it was all seen at that time as useful. But, certainly, there was an overall sense of waiting, waiting for the decision. There was a peculiar sense of stasis even in the midst of dynamic change. Many efforts were made to bridge the gap between Gorbachev and Yeltsin in the last year, but after the August failed coup, Yeltsin had the upper hand and he used his advantage to destroy Gorbachev’s power.

Gorbachev knew that a coup was being considered and he may have been complicit, even if he was not directly involved in the actual carrying out of the attempted takeover. The Politburo had fractured, obviously, with the creation of Russia earlier in the year, and all that were left in the Soviet leadership structure were second-raters, but they were certainly controllable by Gorbachev, even in the diminished circumstances.

I think the coup, which [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard] Shevardnadze warned about very clearly – he said, “They’re coming” – was not a surprise to Gorbachev….I think Gorbachev knew. There was a lot of evidence pointing to that, and had the coup been successful in removing Yeltsin from the scene, Gorbachev would have acted in a very forceful way in moving in the direction of a loose federation.…

[After the coup] Gorbachev was cut to pieces by Yeltsin, particularly after Shevardnadze’s departure. He lost his majority in the ruling group, the Soviet ruling group….He had lost the leadership role and he didn’t convert the disintegration of the Politburo and the Central Committee into a majority group in the legislature, which was where the leadership was. Political leadership had gone from the Party to the legislature. This was the great change in the Soviet structure of the last several years of perestroika.

The Party, the Communist Party – the Party of Power — had disintegrated. The Party, as an instrument of power, had disintegrated. The Party as a reflection of intellectual allegiances remained, but it was now in splinters, it no longer was the identity to the state. The Party was the state up until 1989. After the collapse of the single Party in the last Congress of the Party in 1988, it was no longer the main structural instrument of governance. It wasn’t the state any longer, so the state was somewhere out there, but the legislature was from where legitimate leadership and policy direction would come….

Gorbachev still had the remnants of the power in his grasp, and he had great putative power. He could have, in the minds of many, put it together again. But the coup of August 21 st , ’91 was….the last desperate effort to hold it together. The coup was a crude device carried out by primitives and incompetents, as we saw. It ended disastrously, in such humiliation for Gorbachev. I witnessed the public humiliation when he came back from Foros in Crimea. I was in the Great Hall in the Kremlin, in the Assembly, and it was horrible.

Well, it was the coronation, really, of Yeltsin, and a symbolic transfer of power. Yeltsin treated him very much in a way of a Roman emperor treating a king that had been defeated by the legions. It was symbolic it was powerfully conveyed on television and throughout the world. Psychologically, the death blow was administered. One could see it, and everyone was affected. That was the decisive moment, when Gorbachev came back.


Talk:1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt

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  • No RM, moved, 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt → Soviet coup attempt of 1991, December 14, 2006
  • No RM, moved, 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt → Anti-Soviet demonstrations in the USSR, May 31, 2012
  • No RM, moved, Anti-Soviet demonstrations in the USSR → 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , May 31, 2012
  • RM, no consensus, 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt → August Coup, August 20, 2013 discussion
  • No RM, moved, 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt → 1991 August Coup, May 29, 2020
  • RM, moved, 1991 August Coup → 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, August 15, 2020 discussion

Changed from "Although the coup collapsed in only three days and Gorbachev returned to power, the event crushed the Soviet leader's hopes that the union could be held together in at least a decentralized form." to "Although the coup collapsed in only three days and Gorbachev returned to power, the event seriously undermined the legitimacy of the CPSU and ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union", as the coup did not 'crush' Gorbachev's hopes of preserving the Union - Gorbachev continued to try and hold together a loose Union of states until December, when Yeltsin organised the Belovezh meeting and effectively dissolved the Soviet Union behind Gorbachev's back. However, what the coup was instrumental in doing, was sealing the fate of the CPSU, the legitimacy of which by then no-one, even its previously-ardent supporter Gorbachev, could uphold.

The result of the move request was: moved —usernamekiran (talk) 19:13, 14 August 2020 (UTC)

1991 August Coup → 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt – In 2013 while the article was at 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, an RM ended in no consensus. Recently the page was boldly moved despite this earlier lack of consensus. I think this requires a new full discussion and if there is lack of consensus again the article should be moved back to its original title. In comparison to the original title, the reference to the Soviet Union should certainly be kept but "d'etat" and "attempt" are less important elements and may eventually be dropped from the title. Marcocapelle (talk) 16:03, 7 August 2020 (UTC)

  • Move back - some other title including "Soviet" might be appropriate, per Marcocapelle, but not this. Johnbod (talk) 16:53, 7 August 2020 (UTC)
  • Move back. "1991 August Coup" does not clearly identify the topic, because readers need to know the history of 1991 coups to recognise the subject of the article. That is information that they should learn from the article, rather than info they should need to find it. -- Brown HairedGirl(talk) • (contribs) 03:01, 9 August 2020 (UTC)
  • Comment. Like the nominator, I'm not sure that "attempt" or "d'état" are needed in the article name. I know it wasn't a "successful" coup, but most sources don't refer to this as the coup d'état attempt, they just refer to it as a coup. "1991 Soviet coup" would probably be okay. I do see an awful lot of sources that do use "August coup", though I can understand if users feel this is too vague. Good Ol’factory(talk) 23:58, 11 August 2020 (UTC)

> The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, also known as the August Coup,[a] was a failed attempt made by reactionary Communist leaders of the Soviet Union to take control of the country from Mikhail Gorbachev, who was Soviet President and General Secretary.

The word "reactionary" has a specific meaning in politics and is associated with the far-right. Considering that communists are on the far-left and the coup was opposed by the far-right (monarchists), I think that word isn't appropriate and should be removed. Thoughts?

'Reactionary' means opposed to new reforms and seeking to return to the pre-reform era. Gorbachev's reforms were the target and so I think the word is OK here. Thus we have in a scholarly book: "The attempted reactionary putsch of August 1991 provided Boris Yeltsin the opportunity he sought" from The new Russia: Transition gone awry (2001) by Klein and Pomer. Rjensen (talk) 17:25, 21 April 2021 (UTC) I suppose that's fair enough. :) WhiteNoise17 (talk) 14:11, 27 April 2021 (UTC)


Coup of '91 - tank tracks to democracy

In a desperate attempt to "save" the Soviet Union and prevent the signing of a new treaty that would grant the republics much more autonomy, eight hard-line Communist officials formed a State Committee for the State of Emergency, known as the GKChP. The country's top military leader, Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, became one of those eight. And he wasn't alone in his involvement in the coup attempt. Deputy defense ministers and various top-ranking military commanders all had a hand in the plan. The head of the airborne forces, Pavel Grachev, was among the conspirators. "My role as a commander of the airborne troops was to move one or two divisions into Moscow in case violence broke out in order to protect high-security objects and prevent bloodshed by keeping parts of society from fighting each other," he recalled.With the military and the Security Services (KGB) at their command, the coup organizers quickly – and quietly – established control. They placed Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest at his Crimean country home, detained a number of people deemed “potentially dangerous,” increased the military presence around objects of state importance – and by August 19, were ready to sweep into self-proclaimed power.

"The first couple of days were quite scary," he said. "That's when we had to take over the high-security objects to protect them, and there were crowds of people gathering, and violence was on the verge of breaking out – while the local governments in Russia's regions were just biding their time to see who wins so that they could then decide on their positions."But it wasn't just local politicians who were not rushing to pledge allegiance to the members of GKChP. Doubt began seeping through the coup members' minds almost as soon as the attempt began in earnest. Only nine Communist-controlled newspapers were published on August 19, and independent radio and TV channels were shut down. Every channel in the country was showing just one thing: the “Swan Lake” ballet. But the elegance on screen did not mask the clumsiness of the coup attempt. Grachev was just one of many military men doubting his actions. "It was a small group of people who decided to play the takeover game and overthrow Gorbachev,” he said. “And it was enough to see these people's face – especially when the “Swan Lake” broadcast started – to know that they have no future. The smartest of them was Interior Affairs Minister [Boris] Pugo, who realized that he was being drawn into this conspiracy and was honest enough to shoot himself. That's what all of them should have done, but they didn't have enough willpower."

As the first day of the coup attempt unfolded, Russian President Boris Yeltsin came down to the White House and addressed the troops gathered there he wanted to persuade them to stand down and not take part in an unconstitutional plan. His actions and words, on top of the general sense of confusion and indecision from the coup organizers, are what many believe prevented more bloodshed in the Russian capital – and forced many in the military to switch sides. Sergey Yevdokimov, a former tank commander, remembers those days all too well. "When we entered Moscow, we had no idea what was going on,” he said. “When my unit deployed in front of the White House, we were given the papers: printouts, Yeltsin's decrees and so on. Upon reading them, I guess I knew what was happening, who was right and who was wrong, and who was breaking the law and who was acting against them [the GKChP]."Many of the army men felt that way. And even those determined to stay true to their military oath and carry out their orders began second-guessing themselves. Sergey Brachnikov, one of the thousands of Yeltsin supporters, recalled this encounter with a young major: "I said, ‘Now let's imagine that Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia, comes out of that building right there. By the Constitution, he is the supreme commander of Russia's Armed Forces, way over Defense Minister Yazov. So, if Yeltsin tells you that both Yazov and your commander are traitors and enemies, whose orders will you obey?’ He laughed and said, ‘Well, if Yeltsin comes to me out of there and gives me such orders, I'll obey.’ I told him, ‘OK. Sit here and wait. I'm going over there.’”Brachnikov did go, and managed to talk to Yeltsin – who immediately called for the major to stand before him. "Yeltsin was in his office," recalled Yevdokimov, the tank commander. Rutskoy and General Kobets, who was in charge of the White House defense, went to meet us. Together we went to the negotiations room. They explained again what was happening. I replied that I realized who was wrong and who was right. Rutskoy said, ‘Do you understand that the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) are criminals?’” he continued. “I do.” “Will you help us?”“I will.”


On this day: A coup attempt in Moscow

Russian President Boris Yeltsin reads a statement from atop a tank in Moscow, Soviet Union, photo as he urged the Russian people to resist a hardline takeover of the central government, Aug. 19, 1991.

By the summer of 1991, the Soviet Union was on its last legs. The political elites of USSR republics wanted to break away from the central government. After August 1991, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev left for vacation in Crimea, Vice-President of the USSR Gennady Yanayev - together with the heads of law enforcement agencies and some high powered officials - plotted to dethrone him.

On Aug. 19, 1991 the "Statement of the Soviet leadership" was broadcasted, explaining the transfer of Gorbachev&rsquos power to Yanayev, who declared himself the head of the newly formed State Emergency Committee. Troops and tanks were stationed in Moscow as Boris Yeltsin and the Russian leadership pushed back against the uprising. Members of the emergency Committee surrendered on Aug. 21.

Read more: The story of an unsuccessful coup: Why the USSR was beyond saving

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.


UPI Almanac for Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019

Today is Sunday, Aug. 18, the 230th day of 2019 with 135 to follow.

The moon is waning. Morning stars are Mercury, Neptune, Saturn and Uranus. Evening stars are Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Uranus.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Leo. They include Virginia Dare, first English settler born in the American colonies, in 1587 explorer Meriwether Lewis in 1774 Chicago department store founder Marshall Field in 1834 cosmetics businessman Max Factor in 1904 actor Shelley Winters in 1920 former first lady Rosalynn Carter in 1927 (age 92) film director Roman Polanski in 1933 (age 86) baseball Hall of Fame member Roberto Clemente in 1934 Olympic gold medal winning decathlete Rafer Johnson in 1935 (age 84) actor Robert Redford in 1936 (age 83) actor Martin Mull in 1943 (age 76) actor Patrick Swayze in 1952 actor Denis Leary in 1957 (age 62) actor Madeleine Stowe in 1958 (age 61) actor Edward Norton in 1969 (age 50) actor Christian Slater in 1969 (age 50) actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner in 1970 (age 49) actor Kaitlin Olson in 1975 (age 44) actor Andy Samberg in 1978 (age 41) model Frances Bean Cobain in 1992 (age 27) actor Maia Mitchell in 1993 (age 26) actor Madelaine Petsch in 1994 (age 25).

In 1227, Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who forged an empire stretching from the east coast of China west to the Aral Sea, died in camp during a campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia.

In 1587, Virginia Dare was the first child of English parents to be born in the New World -- at Roanoke Island, part of what would become North Carolina.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was ratified by Tennessee, giving it the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it the law of the land. The law took effect eight days later.

In 1960, the first commercially produced oral contraceptives went on the market.

In 1963, James Meredith graduated from the University of Mississippi. He was the first African American to attend the school, and his enrollment touched off deadly riots, necessitating the use of armed guards.

In 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford was nominated in Kansas City, Mo., to head the Republican presidential ticket. He lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter in November.

In 1982, Lebanon and the Palestine Liberation Organization approved a plan for withdrawal of PLO fighters from besieged West Beirut. Israel approved it the following day.

In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev was removed as president of the Soviet Union in a coup and replaced by hard-line Communists led by Vice President Gennady Yanayev. The coup collapsed after three days due to efforts by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

In 2005, Dennis Rader, the Kansas man who called himself BTK -- for bind, torture, kill -- and confessed to slaying 10 people, was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms.

In 2008, threatened by impeachment and badgered by faltering economy and security, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation.

In 2009, Kim Dae-jung, who served as South Korean president from 1998 to 2003, died after a prolonged bout of pneumonia. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was 85.

In 2010, U.S. combat forces completed their withdrawal from Iraq but 50,000 American troops remained, primarily as trainers.

In 2012, a small plane carrying Philippines Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and three others crashed into the sea off the country's Masbate Island. A Robredo aide survived the crash. Divers later found the bodies of the secretary and two pilots.

In 2013, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, competing in Moscow, became the most decorated track and field athlete in World Championship history.

In 2018, actor Priyanka Chopra and actor-singer Nick Jonas confirmed their engagement. The two married less than four months later in India.

A thought for the day: "Don't mistake politeness for lack of strength." -- Sonia Sotomayor


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